By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA News Wire Contributor)
A police accountability task force set up by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to analyze the Chicago Police Department has released a blunt and damning assessment of the department’s dealing with African Americans.
The report, entitled “Recommendations for Reform: Restoring Trust Between the Chicago Police and the Communities They Serve,” was released on April 13, concluded Chicago Police “have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color.”
The task force concluded that the Chicago Police have alienated communities of color with use of force on individuals in those communities over a long period of time. The task force held town halls and was charged with making specific recommendations for changes to the department on community and police relations.
The community’s lack of trust in CPD is justified,” the report stated bluntly. “There is substantial evidence that people of color, particularly African-Americans, have had disproportionately negative experiences with the police over an extended period of time” it continued.
Police shooting deaths just over the last few years, which have received more attention as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement, would appear to bear those conclusions out.
The Chicago Police related shooting deaths of Bettie Jones, Quintonio LeGrier, Laquan McDonald, Rekia Boyd, Cedrick Chatman and Aiyana Jones are only a few questionable cases in which use of deadly force by police was widely questioned.
“What we have heard has been humbling. As we dug deeper into the complaints of so many about the callous and disrespectful way in which they had been treated by some officers, we also understood that we had an important duty to lay bare the systemic and sanctioned practices that led to the deaths of fellow citizens and the deprivation of the rights of so many others,” the introduction to the report in part stated.
But the task force was not just words. There was data. And the data revealed that even though the city of Chicago is one third African American, 74 percent of the 404 people shot by police from 2008 to 2015 were African American.
“We have borne witness to many hard truths which have profound and lasting impacts on the lives and hopes of individuals and communities. Our recommendations are intended to be responsive to the people, empower the people and to specifically identify a range of changes that are essential to building trust, accountability and lasting change,” the introduction continued.
Lori Lightfoot, the chair of the police accountability task force, said the report was “not an indictment of the entire police department.” But the report also pointed to a lack of accountability and a police code of silence by good officers who shield the incorrect actions of bad conduct.
Other task force members were Sergio Acosta, a former federal prosecutor; Randolph Stone, a clinical professor of law at the University of Chicago; Maurice Classen, a former prosecutor; Victor Dickson, the head of a group that assists the formally incarcerated; Chicago’s inspector general Joseph Ferguson, Alexa James, a social worker; and Sybil Madison-Boyd, a psychologist.
At the same time the task force report was released, the city was putting a new superintendent for the Chicago Police in place. Eddie Johnson, who is African American, was sworn in at the same time the task force report was being released to the public.
Lauren Victoria Burke is a political analyst and contributing writer for the NNPA News Wire. She also speaks on politics and African American leadership. She can be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke.